The Quakers or more properly the Society of Friends has always been a small Christian community. They are unique in that of all the Christian movements they are the only ones to have continued in the same style of worship - sitting in silence - for over 350 years.
They are said to have been founded by George Fox in 1652 in England, however at the time of founding, some groups of dissenters (ie dissenting against the Church of England) had already been sitting in silence.
Certainly George was a key leader, along with a handful of others, in the early transformation from disparate groups into a movement that was identifiable enough to attract persecution of the then government. The government required demonstrations of loyalty that the Quakers rejected on spiritual grounds. As their meeting houses were demolished or locked, they simply moved their meetings onto the rubble or out into the street.
In the time since they have been extremely active in social justice issues, the most famous is probably the abolition of slavery in England and immortalized in the recent movie "Amazing Grace". They are also noted as one of the first Christian churches that allowed and encourage women preachers.
''Quaker Meeting in London: A female Quaker preaches'' (c.1723), engraving by Bernard Picard (1673-1733).
FTF SamWalkers 22/11/2009